Polish Hill
Polish Hill would move into a new council district under the proposed reapportionment. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Just two days before the first public hearing on the process, the Reapportionment Advisory Committee released its proposed map to redraw the nine Pittsburgh City Council districts.

It was enough time for residents of Polish Hill to find out that most of the neighborhood would move from District 7, which includes Bloomfield and Lawrenceville, to District 1, which includes the Strip District, Downtown and neighborhoods on the North Side.

Residents of Polish Hill noted that the guidelines for reapportionment include the commitment to “maintain neighborhoods intact, to the greatest extent practicable — where practicable, refrain from splitting additional neighborhoods into two or more Council Districts.”

Yet, as resident John Rhoades, publisher of NEXTpittsburgh, noted at the meeting on March 24, the northern portion of the district, which is across the busway, will remain in District 7 if the reapportionment goes through as proposed.

He also pointed out that the new districts are supposed to be as compact as possible, yet, he said the inclusion of Polish Hill in District 1 looks like “a vestigial tail of a gerrymandered district.”

Other residents said Polish Hill has more in common with Bloomfield and Lawrenceville, represented by City Councilperson Deb Gross, than it does with the North Side across the Allegheny River, which is in Bobby Wilson’s district.

The current Pittsburgh City Council district map.

The task of the Reapportionment Advisory Committee was to redraw the nine council districts to equally split Pittsburgh’s population of 302,971 residents so that no district contained more than 35,346 people or less than 31,980. 

The committee also maintained two districts in which minority residents were the majority.

Pittsburgh is required to reapportion the nine council districts after each U.S. Census under a set of guidelines imposed by the state.

There is one member of the committee from each of the nine City Council districts, most of whom are staffers for each of the council members.

The committee meetings, which have been held every other week since October, were closed to the public, although limited minutes from the meetings are available online.

Ruby Velasco of Polish Hill, said that because of the lack of transparency in the process, her neighborhood did not have much time to mobilize community input for the redistricting.

“In Polish Hill we kind of align ourselves a lot with the neighborhoods of Bloomfield and Lawrenceville,” Velasco said. “We think that separating us from them kind of prohibits us from acting as a coalition for social justice, economic justice and environmental justice.”

In adjusting the districts, the committee also moved all of Point Breeze out of District 8, which is represented by Erika Strassburger, into District 9, which is represented by Rev. Ricky Burgess.

Other precincts on the North Side in the Chateau, Marshall-Shadeland and Brighton Heights neighborhoods that are close to the Ohio River and are currently in Wilson’s district will be moved to District 6, represented by R. Daniel Lavelle, which also includes the center of the North Side and the Hill District.

The proposed Pittsburgh City Council district map.

The old and new maps can be compared online

Daniel Wood, chair of the Reapportionment Advisory Committee, said that City Council is expected to approve a new map by August.

There are a series of public hearings on the plan:

  • March 30, 6 p.m. at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, 7140 Bennett St.
  • April 7, 6 p.m. at the Pride Project Inc., 227 Bonvue St.
  • April 13, 6 pm. at Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, 10 S. 19th St.
  • April 23, noon at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland), South Wing Reading Room, 4400 Forbes Ave.
  • April 30, 1 p.m.at the Sheraden Healthy Active Living Center, 720 Sherwood St.

You must register for public comments online before each meeting. The advisory commission also offers an online form for submitting feedback.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.